New debt collection bill heads back to House for final vote

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A bid to centralize and strengthen efforts to collect back-owed debts to state agencies was received Sunday in the Louisiana House for a final legislative vote.

The state Senate made what sponsors described as minor changes to House Bill 629, the approved it on a 38-0 vote and returned it to the House for a vote on the additions.

The proposal would create a new debt recovery office in the state Department of Revenue and give it the authority to revoke and suspend state-issued licenses for back debts, among other things. It would require agencies to refer all their delinquent accounts to either the attorney general’s office or the debt recovery office for collection.

Supporters say Louisiana has been too lax in seeking payment for back-owed debts, which are pegged at $1.4 billion.

HB629’s sponsor, state Rep. Chris Broadwater, R-Hammond, testified in committee that the legislation is necessary because the state needs to improve its debt collection efforts. He said state government could generate an additional $180 million to $200 million over five years by creating the Office of Debt Recovery within the state Department of Revenue to pursue payments more than 60 days past due.

The revenue department could grab casino winnings, tax refunds and bank accounts from debtors who owe money to state government.